• Sat. Dec 2nd, 2023

Extreme heat may cause a ‘big shift’ for outdoor sports

Extreme heat may cause a ‘big shift’ for outdoor sports

The days of pulling on your sneakers for a midday run in the summer may be over. Extreme heat is scorching cities around the world, and the problem is expected to persist and worsen over time — and experts say it could lead to “massive change” in outdoor sports as we know them.

Michael Mann, distinguished professor and director of the Penn Center for Science, Sustainability and Media, joined “CBS Mornings” to say he believes record-breaking heat and extreme weather are not too late to slow human impacts on climate change.

▶ Watch Video: Climate Scientist Warns US Will Continue Warming, Weather Will Get More Extreme

The days of pulling on your sneakers for a midday run in the summer may be over. Extreme heat is scorching cities around the world, and the problem is expected to persist and worsen over time — and experts say it could lead to “massive change” in outdoor sports as we know them.

People in the southwestern US and elsewhere around the world have been dealing with brutal temperatures for weeks. This year’s heat waves are being driven by the emergence of El Nino, a natural weather phenomenon that occurs when the Pacific Ocean experiences “warmer than average” surface temperatures.

But the planet as a whole continues to warm as greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere — a problem that experts warn will make heat waves like the one we’re currently facing a more permanent problem in the coming years. As global temperatures rise, those heat waves, storms, droughts and other weather events will become worse.

For those who enjoy spending time in the sunshine during the warmer months, this could be a recipe for disaster.

“I’ll be honest with you. “The temperatures that we’re experiencing this summer, and especially what we’re going to see every summer, I think a lot of people will need a big shift where they’re going to have to move their workouts indoors for at least a month or two,” said Bharat Venkat, an associate professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“I think we’re really going to see that running is a bad idea, especially in these hot summer months.”

Heat and Dust Hamper Madrid's Urban Forest Plans A jogger runs along a trail surrounded by dry shrubs at the Bosque Metropolitano City Forest site in Cerro Almodovar, Vicalvaro district, Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, April 4, 2023.


Why is extreme heat dangerous?

Your body is constantly trying to regulate its temperature, which is why you shiver when you’re cold and sweat when you’re hot. But when it’s really hot outside and then you’re exercising in that heat, you’re “facing the heat from both sides of the equation,” Venkat explained.

“The more intense the exercise you do, the more heat your body produces. So you’re really struggling to cool down your body or stay within safe parameters.

Those parameters are different for everyone depending on age, overall health, hydration levels and more. But as temperatures and humidity increase, everyone will feel an impact, regardless of other factors.

When your body overheats, it can be dangerous, if not fatal. According to the CDC, heat-related illnesses send about 67,500 people to emergency rooms and kill about 700 people in the US each year.

In triple-digit temperatures, such as those faced by many cities in Arizona and Texas, outdoor recreational activities, including running, cycling, hiking and, for some, walking, should not take place, Venkat said.

“You should try to get up as early as possible and work early in the morning or very late,” he said. “But in general, I avoid outdoor exercise during these moments of extreme heat.”

Bodies can adapt to different environments over time, but “there’s a real limit to that,” he explained.

“Dangers are real when it’s hot, and if possible, your best option is to bring your exercise inside.”

Characterized by hot weather Children play on a swing in the shade during a sunny and hot summer day at the Sun Valley Recreation Center in Sun Valley, Tuesday, June 27, 2023.

Alan J. Shaben

Extreme heat causes “behavior”.

But for many, summer is the prime time for such activities. Even for amateur runners, fall is the time for some great races that require months of prior training. There are many summer leagues for adults and children, and summer camps that often include outdoor activities, all of which can be affected.

Allison Coleman, senior director of programs for the National Recreation and Park Association, told CBS News that her organization has seen “behavioral changes” from outdoor enthusiasts who try to do just that. Many, she said, request access to outdoor rec spaces early in the morning or later at night, when temperatures are cooler.

Areas experiencing poor air quality like much of the Northeast and Midwest U.S. due to Canadian wildfires have also affected their summer camp and youth sports programs. Coleman said camps and games will be postponed if not canceled.

“Rising temperatures, poor air quality and other climate change-related events — extreme rainfall and flooding and the like — will create more barriers to being physically active in the communities where people live, learn, work and play,” she said. “That will certainly create some inequities.”

More affluent communities have better access to gyms and indoor spaces for recreational activities, she said. They are more likely to have more trees or structures with shaded areas.

“Underresourced communities may not have the same opportunities or face additional barriers to being able to access them,” she said. “…a lot of the solutions out there…they all come at a cost. And local parks and recreation departments…they are typically under-invested, many of which have maintenance backlogs and need more resources to make these changes.

Tennis-Aus-Open A woman cools off from the heat in front of fans cooling off the mist at Melbourne Park ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament on January 14, 2023 in Melbourne.

Manan Vatsyayana/AFP via Getty Images

As the warm season progresses, the sports seasons change

CBS News reached out to the New York Road Runners and the Boston Athletic Association for an interview. While the two hosting organizations, the New York City Marathon and Boston Marathon, respectively, declined, both provided information on how they are trying to help runners acclimate to the high heat and humidity.

The New York Road Runners organization has guidance on its website urging people to “respect your limits” when the heat and humidity are particularly brutal. Along with standard health guidance to drink enough water, be aware of symptoms and wear sun protection, the group says it takes 10 days to two weeks for the body to adjust to higher temperatures.

Last year, a 32-year-old runner died after completing the NYRR event, the Brooklyn Half Marathon, on a day with temperatures in the low 60s to high 70s and high humidity. The city was under a heat advisory at the time, and more than a dozen other people had to be taken to the hospital during the event.

The New York Road Runners have implemented a color-coded alert level system that is updated throughout the race to warn people of anywhere from “good” to “extreme” weather, which could later result in event cancellation.

The Boston Athletic Association provides similar guidance for participants in individual events. For example, for a 10K race in June, when the forecast expected temperatures to be in the humid 70s and 80s, the organization told participants to slow down to their normal pace and rest if necessary.

“When running in humid weather, excess moisture from the atmosphere clinging to the skin limits the body’s ability to cool itself by inhibiting sweat evaporation, which is your body’s primary means of cooling your core body temperature,” the group says in its warning. “When this evaporation is limited due to humidity, the body heats up quickly. For this reason, we recommend that you provide an equal amount of humidity, if not more, depending on the outdoor temperature.

Even professional programs are changing, Venkat said. For example, international tennis tournaments have created limits that allow games to be suspended when it is too hot or humid.

But he hopes that changes will come.

“I think we will see seasonal changes in sports competitions,” Venkat said. “… the hot season is growing every year. So not only are you seeing more heat waves and more intense heat waves, but you’re also seeing a longer duration of the heat season.

That means the hot summer months start earlier and end later.

“They’re probably going to start moving these things and changing calendars to adapt to climate change,” he said. “It’s either that or it moves in-house. But I don’t think you can continue with business as usual.

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